Expropriation without compensation: Eastern Cape residents express views at public hearings

Farm land. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)
Farm land. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

The second leg of public hearings has been concluded in the Eastern Cape by a delegation of the Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution, to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

On Friday, residents of the Chris Hani District and surrounding areas pledged their support for the legislation and said that the mandate was c lear - there should be no compensation for the land which they say was stolen from their forefathers during the eras of colonialism and apartheid. 

The public hearings were attended by a large number of residents who shared their thoughts on the matter. 

"We have seen a great number of people coming to participate in the process and give meaning to the motto of 'Parliament of the people by the people'.

READ | Parly extends deadline to amend Constitution's land expropriation section

"The orderly and mature way that the hearings were conducted also bodes well for the principle of participatory democracy, which is one of the anchors of the South African democracy," committee chairperson and leader of the Gauteng delegation Mathole Motshekga said. 

During the public hearings, residents said that Section 25 must be drafted in a language which is simple to understand, adding that the current form iwasnot easily understandable, especially for people in the rural areas. 

The residents further emphasised that the amendments need to be drafted in a clear and unambiguous way that did not need to be questioned.

They said that clauses such as "nil compensation" should be written in laymen’s terms, such as "no compensation". 

The Land Claims Court should be the only court to have jurisdiction over disputes to do with the land.

No compensation

Sicelo Kopolo, from the Engcobo Local Municipality, said: "If we say there should be compensation, those who have land in their hands will classify which land is to be sold to the majority, and end up selling unproductive land."

Most participants at the hearings supported the amendment, as it was seen as a means of redressing the historical injustices of land dispossession of the black majority.

Many of the residents argued that there should be absolutely no compensation.

They added that those who wanted compensation had no right to it, as they know that the land in question had been taken by force from its rightful owners.

The residents indicated that they had never heard of a situation where a thief would be compensated after the recovery of stolen goods or property. 

Some residents proposed that the expropriated land should be under the custodianship of traditional leaders, while others believed that the amendment would unblock economic growth and promote transformation in general in South Africa.

Although the majority of residents at the hearings supported the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill, some expressed concerns that the amendment would have a negative impact on the economy and food security. But many reemphasised the need to amend Section 25 of the Constitution and use it as a tool to fight the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Motshekga said: "The Constitutional Review Committee which conducted public hearings during the fifth parliamentary term, and the current Ad Hoc Committee processes are distinct, and both require separate intensive public participation programmes."

Concern that ammendment may scare off investotrs

Speaking on behalf of traditional leaders in the OR Tambo and Chris Hani districts, Chief Vulindlela Mditshwa of Amampondomise said: "If Section 25 of the Constitution is an impediment in the way of reconstruction and development for the improvement of the lives of the historically disadvantaged and the majority of South Africans, it must be amended."

The views opposed to the amendment of Section 25 were also touched on at both Tsolo and Ngcobo legs of the public hearings. 

In Tsolo and Ncobo some of those who opposed an amendment to Section 25 said it could negatively affect investor confidence, at a time when the country needed investors more than ever before.

They also raised the inability of the government to successfully process the backlog of land claims that had been made since the dawn of democracy, 25 years ago, by legitimate claimants.  

The chairperson of the delegation, advocate Bongani Bongo, highlighted the importance of public participation in the legislative processes.

"We are empowered by the procedure of Parliament and the Constitution.It is the Parliament of the people that has mandated us with the task of obtaining public input on this very important legislation.”

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